In less than two days, I had left my home country in what can only be called an adventure towards my future. Everything around me had changed, whether I was truly ready for it or not. Even when I thought I had begun to believe I was getting used to Taiwan back in Taipei, I again experienced a great change upon reaching my university. Needless to say, it caused a bit of a shock.

So, where did it all begin? I’d probably have to say “at the airport.” It hadn’t completely sunk in then, but once I got off the airplane that brought me from Los Angeles to Taipei, most people were unable to understand me. For the first time in my life, the languages I had learned and used couldn’t get me that far. Sure, they were enough to get me to the designated hotel for all ICDF students, but I couldn’t exactly go up to anyone and have a nice, long chat with them. And that was just the beginning, though I didn’t know it at the time.

The next day we headed off to NTNU (National Taiwan Normal University), and the next chapter of my new life began. I found the rooms assigned to us spacious enough for any student, and felt glad I had finally stopped jumping form one hotel to the other. Sure, the bathroom was weird (back home, the shower space and the lavatory space were separated), but you could take a hot shower comfortably. I was pretty much satisfied with it, though it was a bit dirty and I had to do some cleaning to get it up to standard. As for the food, we were pretty much fed at “international approved” restaurants. We ate Pasta, pizza, sandwiches, hamburgers, pretty much all the type of foods common all over the world. Those were given to us from Monday to Saturday, but Sundays we had to find food on our own. Most of us went to the restaurants ICDF had arranged meals for us in, myself included, but on the way I remember seeing some food I found “questionable”, to say the least. I’m pretty sure most international people jump at the sight of a roasted-duck-head stall, or at the smell of raw stinky tofu, or some of the other unique dishes available at night markets. Still, nothing proved itself intolerable, and the hunt for food in Taipei went pretty smoothly. I admit I even tasted some pretty good fried food from one of the stalls near the university.

The whole food affair aside, Taipei held some other surprises for me. One of them was our introduction to Mandarin, where I discovered the fact that the language has 5 distinct tones – flat, rise, fall and rise, fall, and neutral. Not only that, each tone had a different meaning attached to it. Mess up and you just referred to your loving mother as a horse. It was a scary thought, to say the least. I definitely did not want to end up insulting someone by mistake because of poor pronunciation. Still, I had and still haven’t any intentions to give up on learning the language. The courses kept going, and when we finally finished, they told all of us some very wise words: People say there are two parts to Taiwan: Taipei, and the rest of Taiwan.

So, I moved on to the other part of Taiwan: the part that isn’t Taipei. The trip itself went along smoothly, and before long we had reached our final destination: Kun Shan University. Our first stop: the dormitories. We reached the seventh floor to find that which we had predicted: a small room with a tiny bathroom. From what I’ve heard, this happens in nearly all Taiwanese universities, and I later found that there are many ways to improve the look and feel of the dorms. However, they didn’t quite pop into my head at that moment. All I knew at that point was that Taipei and the commodities at the NTNU hotel were a thing of the past. So, they gave us our mattresses, quilts, telephones, and toilet paper, as well as a tour of the dormitory facilities and a list of rules we had to follow. A few moments later, they took us to the nearby supermarket where we bought supplies, and so began the task of thoroughly cleaning our future living space. That alone took up most of our first day at our new homes.

After waking up from what was probably the second most depressing night of my stay in Taiwan, I went for a walk around the University campus. At first I thought I would end up just as depressed as before, but I soon found relief as I explored the campus. A classmate made an interesting comment that day, which pretty much sums up how we all felt after taking a look around the university: “They should’ve shown us the campus first and THEN the dormitories. It would’ve been that much easier to digest.” Speaking of digestion, that day also marked the end of our internationally friendly menu. From that point onwards we searched for places where we could actually order, and found ourselves exposed to Taiwanese cuisine. For some, it was a nearly painless transition; for others, it was violent torture. Honestly, I was closer to the former, though I still refrain from eating roasted duck heads. On the other hand, I must say stinky tofu isn’t that bad once it’s cooked, and Chinese sausages on rice buns taste pretty good.

Once again, I believe I am getting used to life in Taiwan. Sure, there’s still a language barrier that I need to surpass, but mandarin courses are slowly helping me break it down. As for the food, I’ve reached a point where I don’t mind it anymore, and if there’s ever a day that I do, I now have an electric stovetop. All in all, I’d say I’m over the cultural shock and am on my way to a happy 4 years of study. After all, there are many other adventures I need to go through in order to reach my future.